Wed, Jul 22, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Amnesty International warns against ‘alarming rates’ of killings in Jamaica

AFP , LONDON

Jamaica still suffered alarming rates of killings with almost no conviction of police officers accused of human rights abuses, Amnesty International said yesterday.

The London-based rights organization applauded the Jamaican government’s initiatives to tackle deep-rooted violence and serious human rights violations in the island nation.

But in a new report the group also warned the “outlook for Jamaica is still grim” and called on the government to continue to push ahead with its reforms.

“The outlook for Jamaica is still grim with alarming rates of killings and almost no convictions of state agents accused of serious human rights violations,” said Kerrie Howard, Americas deputy director at Amnesty.

“What is different now is that we finally see initiatives that might lead to real change.” Howard said.

“Jamaicans cannot afford to wait any longer,” Howard said.

“Initiatives have to be implemented and produce concrete results soon. The lives of thousands depend on that,” she said.

Police figures showed that 1,611 people were murdered last year in a country with a population of only 2.7 million. The proportion of child victims grew significantly in that year, the group said.

Another 224 people were shot dead by police officers, the group said, and in the first five months of this year alone, police killings increased by 58 percent.

“There have been no convictions against a police officer since 2006 and only four convictions between 1999 and 2009 out of a total of more than 1,700 reports of fatal shootings,” the report said.

The government said last year it would reform and modernize the Jamaican Constabulary Force, and undertake a comprehensive review of the justice system, the group said.

“The government has embarked on a process of reform that if correctly and fully implemented could remove many of the factors contributing to the public security crisis and drastically improve respect for human rights in Jamaica,” Howard said.

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